White sparks showered down around Harry, spattering across the stone floor and sputtering out.
Salazar’s green eyes tracked him through the rain of glowing specks. ‘You told me you wanted to learn about legilimency, not those silly little hexes and jinxes you’ve been practising all this time.’
‘I need to know them for my OWL exams at the end of the year and to be able to teach Nev, since our current teacher is more interested in keeping us helpless and under the sway of the Ministry.’ Harry shrugged. ‘Might as well get them done now and out of the way.’
‘None of them are even remotely useful,’ Salazar said. ‘Why use something like the Impedimenta Jinx when you know how to splinter bones?’
Harry raised an eyebrow at the painting. ‘Because if I use the bone-splintering curse in my exam I’m likely to fail.’
‘This school has gone downhill,’ Salazar griped. ‘I blame the Ministry. Tom said they were created to uphold the Statute of Secrecy that keeps our worlds separate and safe, not restrict the types of magic wizard and witches can use or learn about.’
‘Umbridge’s rants about subhuman creatures won’t last long.’ Harry allowed himself a small smile. ‘Voldemort cursed the position she’s holding, nobody’s ever lasted a whole year, and she’s made enemies of the entire school, Dumbledore, and myself.’
‘You’re part of the school,’ Salazar said. ‘You counted yourself twice.’
‘So’s Dumbledore and I’m quite a bit more dangerous than your average fifth year,’ Harry said.
‘You’re more dangerous than any other student here since Tom.’
Harry grinned. ‘All the more reason not to have to worry about Umbridge being here for more than a year.’
‘You have plenty of other things to worry about,’ Salazar muttered. ‘That prophecy, Voldemort, Dumbledore, the Ministry.’ Salazar’s serpent bobbed its head every time he added another problem until Salazar fixed it with a black glare. ‘And that’s just the big ones you know about.’
‘I’ll figure it out. I have a plan.’
Salazar scoffed. ‘No you don’t. Your plan is some beautiful sunset on the horizon and a whole lot of determination to get to it. Voldemort is biding his time while he gathers his strength, but soon he’ll be back to trying to kill you, probably because of that prophecy, and Dumbledore will be doing his utmost to make sure he’s successful. No doubt he thinks you’ll make a great sacrifice and an even better martyr.’
‘All the more reason to master the Impedimenta Jinx,’ Harry quipped.
Salazar’s eyes flashed. ‘Oh yes, I’m sure that will prove very useful in a duel against Voldemort.’
Harry held up his hands. ‘I’m finished with them. I can perform them all well enough. An hour well spent.’
‘Then it’s time you learned about legilimency. No heir of mine will be anything less than a master of it and you don’t have long left before you need to leave.’
‘You were a whole lot more agreeable before I brought that enchanted clock,’ Harry muttered. ‘Now I’ve got a giant, painted, slave-driving secretary.’
‘Have you thought of a way to practice your legilimency?’
‘I’ve had a couple of ideas, but nothing particularly practical yet.’
‘What have you come up with?’
‘I considered using it on someone who’s asleep or stunned,’ Harry said.
Salazar shook his head. ‘If they’re stunned, they won’t be thinking much about anything, and there’s not a lot a novice can do with a sleeping mind. I suppose it would give you some practice of using the spell and might help you learn to control how much magic you put into it, but beyond that it’s mostly useless. There would be no practice of actually confronting a defended mind.’
‘I could find someone to attack?’ Harry suggested. ‘Someone nobody would listen to?’
‘Very bad idea,’ Salazar snapped. ‘What if they know how to repel you? Legilimency is a very rare skill, but occlumency’s known at a basic level by many, since it helps with magic in general.’
‘I could offer to teach Nev occlumency. I could practice legilimency and he could learn something useful in return.’
‘That might be useful,’ Salazar said. ‘As long as he keeps your ability to use legilimency a secret… And you don’t melt his brain.’
Harry raised an eyebrow. ‘I’m fairly sure you can’t do that with legilimency.’
‘Not physically. A master legilimens, or a rash and powerful novice, can rearrange or create a lot of mental associations. That can change the entire way you think.’
‘So what can you teach me?’ Harry asked. ‘This isn’t like the blood magic where you could only teach me the principles, is it?’
Salazar’s eyes darkened. ‘I haven’t taught you half of what you need to know about blood magic before the end of this year. After legilimency, that’s next. ‘
‘I am a little limited in how much I can teach you,’ Salazar murmured. ‘But I can tell you how it works in as much detail as possible.’
‘I know you form a connection and can then somehow follow emotions,’ Harry said.
‘From when Voldemort managed to use it on you?’ Salazar’s brow creased. ‘What did he manage to see?’
‘Nothing particularly important, no more than I glimpsed from him.’
‘Then it doesn’t matter. You and Tom are similar enough that you will likely come to understand each other well anyway.’ Salazar stroked his goatee. ‘The spell forms the connection, allowing you to see anything that’s currently in the mind of the victim. What Voldemort did requires a very strong connection. He latched onto one particular feeling and dissected it, glimpsing some of the memories and thoughts that are associated with it.’
‘How can I do it?’
‘If your will is stronger or you can make sure that your opponent can’t clear their thoughts so you’re unchallenged. Legilimency is one of those branches of magic that comes down to some quite plain principles, but can be applied in an infinite number of complex ways.’
‘Your favourite kind,’ Harry muttered.
‘Exactly.’ Salazar rearranged his serpent back onto his shoulders. ‘You need to practice casting the spell to get the hang of the scale over which it can be cast. The more magic, the stronger the connection. Occluding the mind actually has no effect on the connection itself, simply rendering it meaningless, but you can be expelled by strength of will. Similar to throwing off the Imperius Curse, if their intent to get you out of their head is stronger than your intent to be in it, then the connection will be broken.’
‘So lots of magic makes the connection hard to break, but doesn’t affect how much I can actually see. And obviously lots of magic requires strong intent.’
‘Perfect.’ Salazar nodded and patted the blunt nose of his serpent. ‘Once you’ve got the hang of casting it, you can work on casting it without a wand or an incantation, and then with as little eye contact as possible. The intricacies of legilimency all come once the connection has been made. ‘
‘What about after the connection has been created?’ Harry asked.
‘Much more complicated.’ Salazar cracked a broad grin. ‘Every wizard does it differently because we all think slightly differently to each other. The goal is to get your victim to think about what you want to know so you can then see it. A simple goal, with many complex methods. You can do it by showing them images, your own memories and thoughts, or by following and dissecting theirs like Voldemort tried to do to you. That’s why practice is so important, you need to learn to create your own style and tactics.’
‘So teaching Nev to try and protect a secret while I learn how to get it out of him is a good idea?’ Harry asked.
‘As long as you trust him or are prepared to use the memory charm on him repeatedly,’ Salazar said.
The only other options are Katie or Fleur, but Katie won’t want to learn occlumency, so she doesn’t get anything out of it, and I can’t risk hurting Fleur. Harry grimaced and a little knot tightened in his gut. Otherwise I can only try and cast it on myself.
‘Can you use legilimency on yourself?’
Salazar ran his fingers through his neat goatee. ‘Why would you want to?’
‘To see how well I can occlude my mind, of course.’
‘I don’t know,’ Salazar murmured. ‘What an intriguing possibility. You could use the time-turner so you had a version of yourself to attack and defend, or you could try and create a connection from your mind to itself. I’ve no idea what might happen!’
‘Perhaps it’s best not to try, in case I make a mess of something important,’ Harry suggested.
Salazar’s face fell. ‘But we have to know. Try with the time-turner, you’d be expecting yourself and not affecting anything too much so it won’t do anything too terrible, and if it does you can leave yourself a warning by going back and warning yourself not to do it.’
‘I’m not doing that unless I’m very desperate,’ Harry said. ‘It sounds like a great way to kill myself twice in the same moment or to get stuck in some ridiculous time loop.’
‘Fine.’ Salazar crossed his arms. ‘Waste the chance to discover something incredible.’
Harry folded his arms and stared back. ‘I will.’
Salazar glanced at the clock. ‘You need to go back to Gryffindor Tower.’
‘So I do,’ Harry said. ‘It’s almost time for Quidditch practice.’
Which I apparently have to be there for, even though I’m not trying out.
‘Before you go,’ Salazar said. ‘Make sure you only portkey in or out to France from within my chamber.’
‘Why?’ Harry quirked an eyebrow. ‘I only ever have, but what difference does it make?’
‘The school’s wards inform the headmaster the moment a student leaves when they aren’t supposed to. The chamber is a loophole. You move outside of the wards, which is recorded, but you don’t actually leave the castle, so they aren’t triggered to alert the headmaster.’ A small smile spread over Salazar’s face. ‘So you can leave from here and Dumbledore won’t know you’ve left unless he actually goes to check you’re still at Hogwarts.’
‘That’s how he knew I could apparate,’ Harry said. ‘He saw I had a new wand and realised I must’ve gone to Diagon Alley, so he checked to see if I had left. If he ever looks he’ll be able to see every time I’ve gone to France this year.’
‘Yes. Don’t give him a reason to check, Harry. The only time periods he can’t check are those he wasn’t headmaster for.’
‘Does he know about the loophole of the Chamber of Secrets?’ Harry asked.
‘There are only three wizards who know any of the secrets of this place and Dumbledore is not one of them,’ Salazar said.
‘As long as he doesn’t have a reason to look for when I’ve left I’ll be fine.’
Not that it changes anything. If Dumbledore wants to ask me where I’m going, I just won’t tell him. Harry headed toward the exit.
‘Practice your legilimency,’ Salazar shouted. ‘And hang me back up on the wall.’
‘Tell me how to take the charms off so I can levitate you!’ Harry paused at the foot of the steps and glanced back.
Salazar folded her arms and turned his back. ‘No.’
Harry snorted and leapt up the stairs. ‘Have it your way, then.’
Myrtle’s bathroom was quiet. Dry, clean white tiles stretched across the floor.
She must be roaming the plumbing. Harry chuckled to himself and headed back to the common room beneath his disillusionment charm. Like a much less terrifying version of the basilisk.
Nev and his newfound following of devoted pupils occupied the sofas by the fire, locked in deep discussion over half a dozen open books Harry recognised from the defence against the dark arts curriculum list. Colin Creevey snoozed in the only other chair.
Harry prodded the sleeping boy in the leg with his foot. Colin remained still as stone.
Well, Salazar said to practice. I owe Creevey for all those photos in the second year anyway.
Harry slipped his wand tip out of his sleeve. ‘Legilimens,’ he murmured.
He plunged into a stream of broken images. Scattered snapshots of taking photos for the Daily Prophet, passing his exams and writing an exposé on Umbridge. Harry tried to concentrate on the hatred swirling through a scatter of images of Umbridge. He glimpsed snatches of her office, a horrible, pink-draped room with china-decorated walls, a glimpse of a black-feathered quill, and red smeared upon the back of his hand.
Harry broke the connection and cast it again, reducing the magic little by little until he got only the merest hint of Colin’s dream. That’s a start. He tucked his wand further up his sleeve.
‘Harry.’ Katie bounced across the common room floor. ‘It’s try-outs time!’
‘Then why aren’t you in your quidditch gear?’ Harry asked.
‘We’re only really trying out for a keeper. Angelina is keeping the old guard together, so we don’t have to compete, just help judge.’ Katie tugged at his arm. ‘Let’s go, we can watch from the stands with everyone else.’
‘I don’t actually get to fly if I come, though, do I?’
‘No, but I want you to come and you aren’t doing anything here.’
Harry rolled his eyes. ‘Fine.’
She grabbed his wrist with warm fingers and pulled him out of the common room and down the stairs. First and second years scattered from her path like leaves in the wind.
‘Here we go!’ Katie slowed to a walk as they approached the edge of the quidditch pitch.
The Weasley twins knocked a bludger back and forth between them while Angelina and Alicia shouted over the top of a huddle of Gryffindors. A handful of Slytherins played a half-game at the far end of the pitch with a single bludger and the quaffle.
Harry glanced around for a glint of gold. No snitch.
‘Harry, Katie.’ Angelina waved them over. ‘You’re a little late, but we’re still waiting for Ron Weasley, anyway.’
‘Where is he?’ Alicia asked.
‘He’s got detention with Umbridge.’ Ginny’s voice piped up from within the huddle. ‘Hi, Harry.’
Harry eased his wrist out of Katie’s grasp and gave the huddle a wave.
‘Well, we’ll start with chaser trials, then,’ Angelina said. ‘Ginny, since you’re the only one who wants to try out for seeker and chaser, you can join this first. You’ll be reserve seeker either way, as Harry’s first and there’s nobody else who wants to play there for some reason.’
Katie beamed. ‘They probably think Harry will murder them for trying to steal his spot on the team.’
‘If anyone wants Katie’s place, I’ll happily murder her,’ Harry offered.
She pouted. ‘Won’t you miss me?’
Harry grinned. ‘Nope.’
‘Mean,’ Katie murmured. ‘A good thing I know you’re lying.’
‘Get in the sky.’ Angelina produced a whistle from the pocket of her robes. ‘Murder’s only acceptable if you’re the captain.’
The five potential chasers kicked off and began to swerve through a series of drills. Harry took a seat on the edge of the stands with Katie and the other members of last year’s team.
‘What do you think, Alicia?’ Angelina asked.
‘Weasley’s good,’ Alicia said. ‘The others are reserve material, nobody’s losing their spot today.’
‘I agree,’ Katie added.
‘Kirke, Sloper, grab that bludger off those two idiots.’ Angelina gestured at her boyfriend and his twin. ‘Show us what you can do. Ten shots. As many hits on the edge of the ring as possible while your partner hits the bludger back at you.’
They nodded and took off. The Weasley twins knocked the bludger up into the sky and tossed them the bats, then wandered across.
‘They’re not bad.’ The twin beside Angelina watched the pair knocking the bludger into the edge of the hoop.
Probably Fred, given he’s sitting with Angelina.
‘Almost as good as us,’ the one next to Alicia said.
‘Not as handsome, though. What do you think Angelina?’
‘Shouldn’t you be asking Alicia, George?’ Angelina’s tone was dry as desert sand.
George gasped. ‘Can’t you tell us apart?!’
‘Yes,’ Alicia and Angelina answered.
‘Oh.’ The pair looked quite crestfallen.
Katie laughed. ‘No more date switching for you two.’
Ron stumbled across the pitch to join them. ‘Sorry.’ His chest heaved as he fought to get his breath back. ‘Umbridge’s detention ran on longer than I thought and she wouldn’t let me leave until I was done.’
‘Get in the air, Weasley,’ Angelina said. ‘You’re not late yet, we haven’t started tryouts for keeper yet.’
Ron grinned and swung a leg over his broom.
Harry glimpsed a gleam of crimson smeared across the back of his hand. Just like Colin. He watched Ron fly, but his robes covered his arm. A little ice crept into his blood. It can’t be a coincidence; it must be Umbridge. And she’s got legal control of all the punishments now.
The Slytherin game drifted near to the tryouts, sweeping through the chaser drills.
‘Oi!’ Angelina yelled. ‘Get out of our half of the pitch.’
One of the beaters, Harry recognised the distinctive profile of one of Crabbe or Goyle, spun and hammered the bludger down at them. It hissed out of the sky and crunched into Katie’s side. Her face turned white as a sheet and a groan slipped through her clenched teeth.
‘Katie,’ Alicia cried.
Fred and George banished the bludger back. It smashed Crabbe off his broom as the Slytherin team flew down. Crabbe bounced twice across the grass, his broom snapped under him like rotten branch, and he rolled to a stop, curling into a ball.
Harry slipped his wand out. ‘Redeo,’ he murmured.
Katie gasped. Tears sprang up in her eyes. ‘No, Harry,’ she moaned. ‘Don’t try and fix it, take me to Madam Pomfrey.’
He helped Katie to her feet.
Malfoy landed in front of them. ‘You’ll pay for that Weasley’s,’ he snapped.
‘You’ll pay for hitting that bludger at Katie!’ Angelina shouted.
‘That was an accident.’ Malfoy glanced at where Katie clutched her ribs and shrugged. ‘What those two blood-traitors did was deliberate. Professor Snape will see you in detention for the rest of the year at the very least. Personally, I’m hoping you’ll just be expelled.’
A tight point of ice formed in Harry’s chest. ‘Shut up and disappear, Malfoy,’ he snapped.
‘Is that a threat, Potter?’ Malfoy sneered. His hand flashed to his wand. ‘Are you going to try kill me like you killed Krum?’
‘What is going on here?’ Umbridge’s high, girlish voice carried across the pitch. ‘I’ve never seen such a display of aggression at this school. Mr Weasley and Mr Weasley, you will serve two weeks detention for your unprovoked attack on a fellow student.’ A broad, smug smile spread across her pallid face and a bright gleam shone in her mud-brown eyes. ‘Since you cannot be trusted to play this sport, I’m afraid I will have to ban you both from playing.’
‘You can’t do that,’ Angelina cried. ‘He attacked Katie.’
‘For life,’ Umbridge said. ‘And I know what I saw, Miss Johnson.’
Harry took some more of Katie’s weight and led her round Malfoy toward the hospital wing.
‘I told you you’d pay.’ Malfoy sniggered and stepped off his broom into their way. ‘Now you’ve got no chance of winning, not with this delusional psycho playing seeker…’ He sneered at Katie. ‘Nobody will notice Bell being injured, though.’
‘Aguamenti,’ Harry hissed, slashing his wand at Malfoy.
A thick stream of water shot from the tip of his wand, striking Malfoy on the shoulder and knocking him off his feet. Malfoy screamed and squirmed in the dirt. Red clouded the water puddling beneath him on the ground as he writhed and clutched at the thick, jagged shards of ice that stuck from the deep, open slices on his torso. Malfoy whimpered and crawled away through the grass and mud. Ice stuck through his tattered quidditch jersey like pieces of broken glass.
‘Mr Potter,’ Umbridge breathed. ‘You’re also banned for life.’
That’s it? Did she forget about detention? Expulsion? Harry took a deep breath and tucked his wand away. Dumbledore must still be the only one who can expel students. Otherwise I’d be gone.
‘What have you got to say for yourself, Mr Potter?’ Umbridge demanded.
Harry led Katie toward the hospital wing. She wrapped her arms round his waist and clung to him, letting out little gasps and hisses with each step.
‘That was stupid,’ Katie whispered.
‘I know,’ Harry said. ‘I shouldn’t have lost my temper.’
‘I can think of a certain someone who’s going to be twice as angry with you as anybody here.’ She let out a weak laugh, then grimaced and moaned. ‘Ow. I think my ribs are broken. Can we stop for a moment?’
They’re definitely broken. That hit you as hard as Dobby’s bludger hit me.
Harry paused and let her lean on him. ‘Why twice?’
Fleur won’t be too mad, will she? He touched a fingertip to the necklace. Oh. No. They’ll write about it in all the papers and her parents will see. Fleur’s going to be furious.
‘You did something stupid.’ Katie giggled, then winced. ‘And you did it because I got hurt.’
‘I’ll blame you,’ Harry said. ‘Then Fleur will come and set you on fire instead of me. Now hush, you need to see Madam Pomfrey, I don’t think talking and moving your ribs is helping.’
‘My chest hurts lots when I breathe,’ Katie murmured.
‘Madam Pomfrey will fix it.’ Harry smiled. ‘She regrew all the bones in my arm after Lockhart vanished them, she can manage to fix some ribs.’
‘You can always have a look first.’ Katie giggled and motioned to her chest. ‘No seashell bra, though.’
Harry laughed. ‘No thanks, Katie.’
A wounded expression crossed her face. ‘Ouch. Not even a joke or a gentle let down.’
‘Fleur,’ he said. ‘If you think she’s going to be angry over this, you can only imagine how mad she’d be if she heard about us doing something like that.’
There’d be fire. Probably lots of fire. And she’d leave. If I hurt her like that, she’d go all proud and walk away. A horrible emptiness clawed its way back up from where Harry’d buried it. He shuddered. She’d be gone forever.
‘I’m not pretty enough for you, Harry.’ Katie giggled. ‘I’m glad you’re my friend again. I enjoy scaring the firsties with you.’
‘You’re the one who does all the scaring,’ Harry swept her legs out from underneath her and carried her into the hall toward the infirmary. ‘I just stand there.’
‘It’s still fun,’ Katie murmured. She buried her head in his shoulder. ‘I don’t think Fleur would like you carrying me like this, either.’
No. She’d understand, though. As long as she knew why. A cold trickle of dread slid down his side. Which the Daily Prophet and Rita Skeeter certainly won’t help with if they get a photo somehow. Harry disillusioned them both.
Katie laughed, then groaned. ‘Are we there yet?’
‘Nearly,’ Harry said. ‘Only a minute or two now.’
‘It’s quite painful.’ Her words slipped out fast and soft, blending into one another. ‘Like, it really really hurts, but, at the same time, it doesn’t. How weird is that?’
‘That is quite strange.’ Harry turned round and shoved his way into the hospital wing with his back. ‘But Madam Pomfrey will fix it for you in a moment.’
Katie looked up from his shoulder. ‘You aren’t going to do something silly and go after Umbridge, are you?’
‘Madam Pomfrey,’ Harry called.
She bustled out, pulling her wand from her pocket. ‘You better not have burnt yourself or something again, Mr Potter.’
‘Not me, Katie,’ Harry said. ‘I’m completely fine.’
Madam Pomfrey’s eyes dropped to Katie. ‘Put her on a clean bed. I’ll be with her in a second.’ She stepped back inside her office and began to rummage. Glass and metal clinked behind the frosted window.
Katie bumped her head against Harry’s chest. ‘Oi, Harry. Promise me you won’t get caught doing something stupid.’
Harry smiled and set her down on the bed. ‘I promise not to get caught doing something stupid.’
I won’t get caught at all.
She beamed, then squirmed onto her side and grabbed his hand. ‘Stay here, please. I don’t really like hospitals.’
‘I’ll stay if you’re quiet and stop moving around.’ Harry gave her fingers a squeeze. ‘I’m sure Angelina and Alicia will be here soon, too.’